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NFL Draft

2021 NFL Draft: Indiana WR Whop Philyor is a potential sleeper

whop philyor nfl draft
Indiana's junior wide receiver Whop Philyor runs with the football in the team's season-opener against Ball State on Aug. 31. (USA Today Images) (USA Today Images)

With the NFL Scouting Combine wrapping up and most of the players and media having already left Indianapolis, there’s now only a slew of Pro Days and the chaos of free agency standing between the 2020 NFL Draft and us. After a magical three days in Las Vegas, it’ll be time to turn our attention to the 2021 NFL Draft. Whop Philyor is a prospect who deserves attention in next year’s draft class. 

If you’ve been following along with Pro Football Network the past few weeks, you’ve already got a head start on the 2021 class. By now, you should know some of the top players at several positions, along with a few sleepers in the running backs class. Now it’s time to turn our attention to the wide receiver class.

The 2020 NFL Draft is one of the deepest classes in recent memory at the wide receiver position. Some may even argue it’s the best class at the position we’ve ever seen. It’s going to be near impossible for the 2021 NFL Draft class to compete. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t some incredible value in this class, including slot receiver extraordinaire Whop Philyor from Indiana University. Indiana may not be known for being a pipeline to the NFL, but by this time next year, I think a lot of NFL Draft media will be talking about Whop Philyor as one of the biggest sleepers in this class.

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Who is Indiana wide receiver Whop Philyor?

Philyor was recruited to Indiana University out of Plant High School in South Tampa, FL. Philyor starred at Plant as a do-it-all player, seeing time at running back, wide receiver, and defensive back for the team. As a receiver, Philyor racked up more than 2,000 yards in his high school career and 25 touchdowns, while adding 18 passes defended and one forced fumble as a defensive back.

That talent has been on display since day one for the Hoosiers star receiver. Philyor saw extensive playing time right out of the gate as a freshman for Indiana, finishing third on the team in receptions and receiving touchdowns, and fourth in receiving yards. After a down sophomore season in which Philyor only played 5 games due to injury, he had a breakout year as a junior.

Philyor came into the 2019 season named as a Biletnikoff Award watch list receiver, and he showed everyone why. Philyor became just the seventh receiver in Indiana University history to top the 1,000 yards receiving mark with 1,002 yards on 70 catches, adding 5 touchdowns to the stat sheet. A season good enough for Second Team All-Big Ten honors.

Another season like his 2019 effort and Philyor could rewrite the Indiana record books. Philyor is less than 1,200 yards away from becoming Indiana’s all-time leader in receiving yards, and just 66 receptions away from the school’s all-time mark. Just as important, another year like 2019 would firmly plant Whop Philyor’s flag as a top 2021 NFL Draft sleeper.

What makes Whop Philyor a 2021 NFL Draft sleeper?

Though he’s played both inside and out at Indiana, Whop Philyor’s home in the NFL is going to be as a slot receiver. His size works against him playing outside on a consistent basis in the pros, and his skill set is perfect for the inside. In a league that’s looking more and more at “big slot” guys like Mike Gesicki and 2020 NFL Draft product Chase Claypool, there’s still plenty of room for the more traditional, quicker-than-fast small slot guys. Guys like Philyor.

Philyor’s agility and quickness are going to make him an asset at the next level. He’s not going to blow anyone away with his speed, but what he is going to do is break a guy’s ankles in the open field and make even the most sure-tackling defenders look silly. It’s all over his tape the kind of moves he has when you get him the ball in space. His bread-and-butter is the bubble screen, but he’s equally adept at making plays over the middle.

One of the biggest things I look for in a wide receiver — in any prospect, really — is competitive toughness. For a wide receiver, that toughness can come in a number of different ways. It can be a player who’s willing to sacrifice his body over the middle of the field. It can be a guy who’s always willing to lower his shoulder and gain the extra yard. Or it can show up in a receiver who has the ferocity to go after and block defensive backs in the run game.

Philyor’s competitive toughness manifests most in the latter aspect. He’s a dog when it comes to his desire to be an active participant in the run game. That’s going to endear him to a lot of scouts and coaches at the next level. You can teach technique. You can teach scheme. What you can’t teach is heart.

What’s holding him back?

The competitive toughness Whop Philyor shows is great, but unfortunately, he doesn’t have the size to back it up. There’s an old saying that says “it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog,” but that’s only true to a certain extent. At 5’11” and a shade under 180 pounds, Philyor, despite his best efforts, can get bodied by bigger corners.

Usually, I would say you can add some weight to him, and he’ll be fine. But with that added weight will likely come a reduction in his speed and quickness. For a slot receiver, that can be a death sentence. Philyor likely won’t be asked to block too often at the next level, so it’s a minor issue.

Minor issues, however, can add up to a big hit in a prospect’s draft stock, especially in a class with as much talent as the 2021 wide receiver class should have. This class isn’t going to be in the same echelon as the 2020 class, but don’t let that fool you. This class is stacked with talent as well. That talent may push Philyor down some draft boards into the Day 3 range. But make no mistake about it, Whop Philyor is an NFL Draft sleeper who can solidify any team’s slot receiver position.

Follow @PFN365 and @CSpoonerNFL on Twitter for more updates on the 2020 and 2021 NFL Draft. 

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